The public library, the avant-garde

2022-07-05 @Blog

At that public library rereading yet again the initial pages of João Guimaraes Rosa’s Grande Sertão: Veredas. Strongly considered for the next challenge in contention with Clarice Lispector’s Paixão segundo G H. Aligns well with my stuck-up, conceited reading philosophy: older, tougher, untranslated, avant-garde, come the slightest opportunity to abuse the term.

Though I think I’ve the right idea. Does avant-garde not imply the cutting-edge, experimental, straying from the norm? Sometimes the avant-garde of today enters the norm fifty years hence. Sometimes the status persists. Ulysses, for instance: haven’t personally heard of or encountered a similar work. Not to that extent, not across the mainstream. Avant-garde as much 1922 as 2022. Happy 100-year anniversary.

Is an incongruent Archie Shepp Jazz album, or Cecil Taylor, Albert Aylor, Pharaoh Sanders, Marion Brown, Ornette Coleman, or say, Peter Brötzmann, less radical today than fifty years back? Arguably so, at least among the narrow Jazz listening contingency. I’ve certainly heard enough of these abnormal rhythmic patterns in live performances. No longer as cutting edge.

Or take a late 60s - early 70s Miles Davis recording. What I at first found painfully indigestible has become relaxing and quiet melodic. I fall asleep to those measures. Don’t misinterpret.

Come fine art, I’m clueless what to consider avant-garde. With music, nearly clueless. Too out of tune with the contemporary.

Only one or two years prior I’d unearthed and fell in love with the minimalist sound of The Cure, be it the early Gothic period, the later Pop, or the permeating mysticality across the board. Revelational. Let’s see if it endures time. Similarly, I’d only now began to appreciate the grunge rock of Nirvana, indifferent to the sound through the 1990’s and beyond.

I’m beginning to conflate phenomena … and ramble. Lets wind back to the uncomfortably air-conditioned library.

João Guimaraes Rosa. Then stumbled across the foreign language bookshelves. Perused a copy of Finnigan’s Wake for the first time, the 1939 work not yet in the public domain. Avant-garde multiplied by eight-and-a-half. Even I’m not that heedlessly bold to stipulate readiness for that opus, anti-novel, what you will. Already sensed severe Ulysses hatership out there across the internet wastes. What sort of commentary is Finnigan then likely to elicit? Better yet, how many have even glanced at a single page?

Then an hour leafing Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, hitherto oblivious to the American poem for the American laymen. Though raised in the US since the teens, these de facto American (or British) works are relatively new to me, at that point heavily retrograde for even the average reading standard. (Trying to avoid the term illiterate.)

Felt like an all-encompassing moral treatise. Fairly accessible free verse for a period still characterized by Romanticism, Victorianism and Neo-Classism. Alas, the stanzas didn’t connect with me; nor I with the stanzas. Inclined rather towards Eliot or Pound.

Then again, initially, I didn’t connect with any of those poets. Some impulse within me urged to invest more time: perhaps the bias for the British over American. I’ll not bother to elaborate. And those two are American ex-patriots. Try reconciling that.

Come the subject matter of prophetic, moral mambo jumbo, I’m increasingly drawn to William Blake’s poetry (in addition to the fine art - look into it), ie The Augeries of Innocence, Book of Thel, A Poison Tree, My Pretty Rose Tree.

Rationale? Can’t yet articulate in vernacular tongue. Try. Something about the clear metaphors and symbolism expressed in simple metric pattern: come to think of it, to say the same of Ezra Pound imagism poetry, save for the meter.

Anyway, I’m done.

Questions, comments? Connect.